The Augsburg Confession: A Defining Moment

I remember when I was growing up, I took for granted the priceless treasures of Lutheran theology. I went to a Lutheran church because that is what my family did. However I do recall some defining moments that cemented for me my relationship to the Lutheran church. This month I share with you a moment during my first year in seminary that reminded me why I was becoming a Lutheran pastor specifically.

Because of my family history, there was a momentum towards going to seminary and training to become a pastor. I appreciated this because I believe God was at work through the encouragement of my family and friends, but I also wanted to be a pastor for a reason other than just because people thought it was a good idea. I found this reason while I was taking the class Lutheran Confession I S-122. This course is the first in a sequence of courses which survey the confessional documents in the Book of Concord. This book contains the documents that have defined Lutheran doctrine since the year 1580. Professor Charles Arand desired that we acquire knowledge of this book, develop the skills to think theologically, and develop an attitude of reverence for the Holy Scriptures as the Word of God and as the only source and judge of Christian faith and life.

The decision to become a pastor that vigorously would make known the love of Jesus became easier for me to swallow during this class when I studied the fourth article of the Augsburg Confession and the Apology to the Augsburg Confession. On June 25, 1530, Chancellor Christian Beyer, a member of the government of Duke John, elector of Saxony, read the Augsburg Confession to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V and a gathering of princes in the city of Augsburg, Germany. The Augsburg Confession was signed by seven princes and two city councils in whose lands the teachings of Martin Luther had taken root.

The Augsburg Confession in clear terms defines what it means to be Lutheran. This document is essential to Lutheran identity and I had not read it until my first year at seminary. When I read the fourth article, I knew that I was going to become a Lutheran pastor for a reason much more important than the momentum of family heritage. The fourth article shows how the Gospel, the good news of justification by grace for Christ’s sake, is received by faith alone. This good news is at the center of every major teaching of the church. We insist as Lutherans that “we cannot obtain forgiveness of sin and righteousness before God by our own merits, works, or satisfactions, but that we receive forgiveness of sin and become righteous before God by grace, for Christ’s sake, through faith, when we believe that Christ suffered for us and that for his sake our sin is forgiven and righteousness and eternal life are given to us. For God will regard and reckon this faith as righteousness, as Paul says in Romans 3:21-26 and 4:5.” (Augsburg Confession, Article IV, Tappert edition, p. 30).

Chancellor Christian Beyer read these words to the Holy Roman Emperor in a loud voice so that all assembled could hear the promises of Christ that form the beating heart of Christ’s mission through His church. I am Lutheran because I want to declare in clear voice for all to hear that we are saved by faith in Christ and not by works. I am right with God for now and for eternity because of what Christ Jesus has done for me. This is the good news that carries me forward in ministry.

If you are interested in reading the Book of Concord, we have a copy in our library at St. Paul Lutheran Church. You can also purchase your own copy from Concordia Publishing House or from Amazon.com. The binding is red and is titled, Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions. It is a reader’s edition of the Book of Concord, which includes informative historical introductions and drawings of the major historical figures of that time in history.

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2 thoughts on “The Augsburg Confession: A Defining Moment

  1. Very interesting post, both for the role of Article 4 in your own faith pilgrimage & the historical information about the great Confession’s original presentation. I especially liked learning how Chancellor Beyer read Article 4 in a loud voice to clearly proclaim the blessed promises of Christ. I had never heard this before…& it made me want to learn more about the “Lutheran Princes”. (I believe the professor you mentioned is one if the two professors who lead a podcast series on the Book of Concord that I regularly listen to in my iPod. 31 or so programs about 20 minutes or so each that the seminary had made available on iTunes years back)

  2. As a sinner, I know existentially that the truth of Article 4 is often the only thing that keeps me going on in this life that I live so poorly.

    As a parishioner, I hope & pray Article 4 will always be the foundational element of all your preaching & teaching @ St Paul.

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